Bulls

Bulls hope to lock up top seed vs. struggling Cavs

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Bulls hope to lock up top seed vs. struggling Cavs

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 10:35 a.m.
Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls took a huge step towards securing the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference with a dominating performance their last time out.

A matchup against the conference's worst club could help them clinch.

Seeking a fifth consecutive win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls begin a three-game trip Friday night looking to lock up the top seed in the East.

Chicago (58-20) defeated Boston 97-81 on Thursday night to increase its lead over the Celtics and Miami for first place in the conference to four games with four remaining.

The Bulls, winners of five straight and 17 of 19, can earn home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a win or a Celtics loss. Boston hosts Washington on Friday.

"I always said that we could compete with some of the best teams in the NBA," said MVP candidate Derrick Rose, who scored 30 points. "At training camp and in the beginning of the year, I thought my team's ready to fight. I just saw what we were going through in training camp. Guys were keyed in and focused, making sure that they came in very, very hungry, wanting to win."

Rose, the only NBA player who ranks in the top 10 in both points (25.1) and assists (7.9), is averaging 27.0 and 9.0, respectively, in three wins over Cleveland in 2010-11.

Chicago, which hasn't finished atop the East since winning the most recent of its six NBA championships in 1997-98, has won eight of nine on the road - including four straight by an average of 15.7 points while shooting 51.6 percent.

Carlos Boozer is averaging 14.7 points - 3.0 less than his season mark - on 39.6 percent shooting over his last three games. The forward, who spent the first two years of his career with the Cavaliers, has averaged 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the last two contests against his former team.

The Bulls are allowing an average of 93.6 points over their current win streak. They have won 13 in a row and are 48-2 when holding opponents under 95 points.

While Chicago has held the Cavaliers to 84.3 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting this season, forward Luol Deng knows his team can't overlook them.

"We never look at their record. Cleveland is playing some good basketball," said Deng, who scored 23 points against the Celtics.

"...(Thursday) was a big game, we know that, but our mentality gotta be the next game. We walk out of this locker room, get on a plane, our mindset gotta be right, we can't take any team light."

Following a 99-89 win over Charlotte on Tuesday, Cleveland (17-61) defeated Toronto 104-96 on the road Wednesday night, recording back-to-back victories for the first time since a three-game run Nov. 5-9.

"We are starting to see the benefits of hard work," guard Daniel Gibson said. "After all of the tough things that have happened, we are starting to understand what it's all about to play basketball the right way and win games."

Big man J.J. Hickson continued his impressive play with 28 points and 10 rebounds against the Raptors.

Hickson, averaging 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds over his last 11 games, had 13 points on 26.3 percent shooting and a career-best 20 boards Jan. 22 in a 92-79 loss at Chicago

The Cavaliers have won three of four at home while limiting opponents to 92.3 points per game.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: